tv The Last Word MSNBC September 5, 2013 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
there, but sometimes in unexpected places, you find it to be different, happy new year, the best new thing you were not expecting today. that does it for us today, "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. the shocking video of syrian rebels executing the syrian soldiers could change the terms of the debate in washington. >> president obama is facing two distinct challenges in series. vladimir putin and the united states congress. >> president obama arrives in russia. >> right now the president is abroad. >> all eyes are on him and vladimir putin. >> in the middle of the g 20 meeting, they don't even pretend they have a good meeting. >> pressing members of the international communities to support a military strike on syria. >> they're not the ones voting on capitol hill. >> let's talk about the house,
the numbers are not looking so good right now. members of congress challenging the policy. >> is this a new day for foreign policy where we're going to start to say something and mean it? >> our acts would be one of attacking a sovereign nation, a nation that didn't attack us. >> i can only envision an escalation of this current conflict. they see this through the prism of the last ten years. >> can he sway public opinion enough? >> the country just doesn't want a commitment. >> even though we're a super power, we haven't figured out yet we don't actually have super power. >> the bulk of the congress still is not back. >> the longer they wait, the worse it is for them. >> they will decide the fate of a president's hour. >> day one of the g 20 summit in st. petersburg in russia. >> i think our joint recognition
that these chemical weapons in syria, it is not only a tragedy, but also a violation of international law that must be addressed. >> nbc news chuck todd reports that the administration is hoping to gain the support of at least ten of the 20 countries on the president's proposal to strike the syrian government. this comes just one day after russian president vladimir putin called an american strike against syria without the u.n.'s approval "an act of aggression." putin also accused john kerry of lying about the role in syria, say they lie beautifully. the congressman asked mr. kerry, is al-qaeda there, he says no, i am telling you responsibly it is
not. it was unpleasant and surprising for me, we talked to them and proceeded from the assumption they are decent people. but he is lying and knows he is lying. it is sad. here is what john kerry actually said when he acknowledged that al-qaeda is in syria. >> i just don't agree that a majority are al-qaeda and the bad guys. that is not true. there are about 70 to 100,000 oppositionists. about somewhere, maybe 15 to 25% might be in one group or another, who are what we would deem to be bad guys. there are many different groups. there are different entities and sometimes they're fighting each other. even now. >> in an exclusive interview tonight, he said once again, the
strike against syria will not be another iraq. >> senator chuck hagel, when he senator, now secretary of defense, and when i was a senator we opposed the president's decision to go into iraq. but we know full well how that evidence was used to persuade all of us that authority ought to be given. i can guarantee you i'm not imprisoned by my memories of or experience in vietnam. i'm informed by it. and i'm not imprisoned by my memory of how that evidence was used. i am informed by it. and so is chuck hagel. and we are informed sufficiently that we are absolutely committed to not putting any evidence in front of the american people that is not properly vetted and chased to the ground, that we are utterly convinced that whatever we produce is in the interest of our country. and it will not lead to some further engagement.
there will be no american boots on the ground. this is not iraq, this is not afghanistan, this is not even libya. this is a very limited targeted effort to reduce. >> joining me now, msnbc's alex wagner, and former clinton adviser, mark ginsburg, and e. j. deon. it seems many members of congress are locked into the iraq experience and locked into the notion that mission creep will occur in those things, and they just don't seem to believe him no matter how many times he says it, that there will be no boots on the ground. >> yeah, it surprises me when you play that sound bite from putin, just how much he is challenging the spectre of iraq in a deliberate way. first, the allegations of lies, americans think of course the
invasion of iraq, and then also in terms of this notion that al-qaeda is out there as a menace, this unseen menace, even though, as you have pointed out john kerry admits that there may be a faction within the opposition movement that is driven by jihadists, but by no means is it the lion's share of the opposition forces. kerry brings up a great point, with the secretary of state and also chuck hagel, these are veterans of war. the notion that there is a parallel line to be drawn by this administration and the bush administration is refuting the facts that are there. it is an incredibly ignorant view of how the president has conducted himself and has chosen the leaders that have helped him. >> let's listen to what secretary kerry told chris hayes
about what will happen if we do not strike syria. >> and i believe if we don't stand up, our friends in the region, jordan, will be more fragile, potentially at risk. israel will suffer the greater potentiality of these weapons falling into the hands of hezbollah. that iran will feel emboldened, iran, whom we are already in a major confrontation with over the possibility that they are developing a new nuclear weapon. iran will read it in the wrong way and it could create a new confrontation down the road. so chris, i thought a lot about this. i know the lessons of war. i don't believe this is taking america to war. >> e. j. dionne, this is a much more complex element of the sections. as you listen to him talk about it, it does sound like it is
possibly their biggest concern. >> and i also think it is very likely the biggest selling point they have in terms of winning a majority in the house, which i think they will do, and in the senate. because a lot of members who are not sure about this attack do not want to weaken the president in the confrontation or one hopes, negotiations with iran. and that is where the whole credibility issue comes in. the president said, my credibility is not at stake. actually, it is. and that is one of the reasons why he feels he needs to respond to the use of chemical weapons. and having drawn this red line, and i think there was a good reason to draw this red line, he has to act. and i think members of congress who are reluctant to vote for war do not want to cripple him and weaken him in coming relations with iran.
>> let's listen to what u.s. ambassador to the united nations samantha power said today about this. >> and even in the wake of the flagrant shattering of the chemical weapons, russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its international responsibilities including as a party to the chemical weapons convention. >> ambassador ginsburg, what is your reaction to the very strong language from a written statement. that was not off the cuff, about russia, while the president is actually in russia with putin. >> well, it shows you the dilemma that the president faces going even into this meeting where he had avoided having a one-on-one meeting with putin, because of their disagreements over edward snowden, over syria, but the bottom line is the bottom line. we're not going to get a political settlement in syria without the active participation of russia.
and one of the goals that is missing here from the policy pronouncements of the administration, which i encourage secretary kerry to put back on the table, you have to remember, lawrence, that when secretary kerry first took on his job, he was promoting the idea of a geneva conference when he was with the foreign minister. that took place mostly because of the divided syrian opposition that couldn't agree to attend this conference. we have to take it out of their hands, you see how much from the interview how much these rebels are divided. i would even suggest that the administration even get more democratic support for its policy by suggesting that it would even condone the idea of bringing iran into this equation at the geneva conference and in effect, show that the political settlement is ultimately the goal of this administration. that may make it easier in the long run to accomplish the policy, because after all, as e.
j. just said is more than an american policy to maintain credibility than it is anything else. >> i think it is important that the president give a big speech everyone is talking about. and i think the administration is going to argue that ultimately what their purpose here is, is to push the russians, to push assad into negotiations. and also, to encourage the people, the saadis, pushing them into negotiations. i think the ambassador is right. you are going to get more democratic votes if this attack is seen as an effort to move this process along and to say to the russians, you can't just keep backing this guy, assad. because he is doing things that you don't want him to do. >> you know, lawrence, can i also get a word in there on that? >> go ahead. >> because you know, i think it
is really interesting that the u.s. is taking such an aggressive stance with russia. i mean, it is not surprising given the fact that they have effectively given up on negotiations, at least in the public sphere, but if there is a small crack of light in this, it may be with the findings, i think, of the u.n. weapons inspections team. we're looking for a time table in congress. and you know, it may happen to the middle, to the third week of september depending on debate in the house and of course, in the senate. that will give the u.n. weapons inspections team enough time to come to their conclusion. and if, for example, there is international assertion, really, that assad was behind these chemical weapons attacks it will be much harder for the russians to defend their positions and could open at least in whatever small fashion room for negotiation and cooperation in doing something in syria. >> alex wagner, and e. j. dionne, thank you for joining
us. coming up, chris van hollen joins me with his resolution on the intervention in syria. and who are the rebels in syria? we'll show you the graphic new york times video that provides a very troubling answer to that question. and in the rewrite, what would happen if an american president supplied chemical weapons to a middle east dictator who then used those chemical weapons to kill thousands of people? impeachment? no, not if the president's name was reagan. the ugly truth about ronald reagan and the chemical weapons in tonight's rewrite. [ male announcer ] introducing new fast acting advil. with an ultra-thin coating and fast absorbing advil ion core™ technology, it stops pain before it gets worse. nothing works faster. new fast acting advil.
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abdullah took this picture of a syrian fighting watching the speech by president obama, near a suburb, about the alleged chemical attack. and joining me, he has written his own resolution on the authorization of the attack on syria. man: sometimes it's like we're still in college. but with a mortgage. and the furniture's a lot nicer. and suddenly, the most important person in my life is someone i haven't even met yet. who matters most to you says the most about you.
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>> i've had multiple briefings. and they get more and more inclusive as the intelligence community puts more and more together. i've been here for present years, i don't remember a time when there has been more information to gain access to other than what they read in a report. there is briefing after briefing after briefing. based on what i have learned, i have no doubt that the regime used nerve agents. >> but of course, not all lawmakers are convinced. and many are facing vocal anti-intervention constituents, he suggested that the president needs to do more to convince the american people. >> if i were to make a suggestion, i think we have a
lot of work to do to help the american people understand why the risks of action are less than the risks of inaction. and the question i would ask is this. what more can be done to further communicate with the american people, for example, will the president make a speech from the oval office to the american people in one of the coming evenings? >> i have no doubt the president will. >> the white house announced earlier today that president obama has cancelled a trip to los angeles that was scheduled for monday and will stay in washington to continue working on the syrian resolution. joining me now is maryland democrat, congressman chris van hollen, congressman, i just want to pick up on that point that was raised. which is the president addressing the american people, do you know when it will occur? secretary kerry just said it will happen. >> lawrence, i do not. the president has been reaching out to the team members, but i
don't know when they will schedule the presidential address. >> and do you have any understanding of when the evidence that dianne feinstein is talking about and all the other members of the house and senate are talking about will be shared with the public? >> i don't, lawrence, and i think that is an important question, because the iraq experience, obviously, has raised the stakes here. it has made it ever-more important that the public get the information as members of congress have. and every member of congress obviously has an obligation to make sure they look at all the information, classified and unclassified. but i do think it would be helpful if the administration would provide more of that information to the public. because those of us who have seen it find it very convincing. >> but many of you who have seen it, many of your colleagues who have seen it and who you agree with it on many other issues do not find it as convincing as you do. can you give us a sense on what other areas that fail to be so compelling with them that are
compelling to you? >> well, as you know, we're scattered around the country, still. there are some people who may still argue that chemical weapons were not used. i think that is overwhelmingly been demonstrated. and of course, there is the issue of who is responsible. and again, i think the intelligence, including some the administration has made public is very persuasive in that area. and the classified evidence is even more persuasive. but i think most of our members, lawrence, are at the point where they do believe the evidence is convincing. i think we need to do more on that front. but then the question is what next? >> congressman, you have written your own version of this resolution which you would like the house and senate to consider. and as i read it, the big difference in it compared to what the senate just voted on in
committee is that you would limit it to what you refer to as one series of strikes. now, how do you define that? one round of strikes? well, lawrence, what we have said is that after the initial round of military action, you know, the president has referred many times to the fact he is going to take a series of punitive strikes. he is going to do a shot across the bow. so whenever that regional intense action is completed, it is our view that we should not resume military force until and if assad uses chemical weapons again. the use of this message will be to deter assad from the use of chemical weapons. and we believe that after that initial military onslaught, we should not continue a campaign unless assad re-issues the use of chemical weapons. and another important
difference, lawrence is the fact that in the senate they added language from senator mccain, that would put the congress on record for the first time in terms of providing, quote, all possible support to the syrian rebels. he said the syrian rebels that have been vetted by the administration. but congress has been very leary about taking a position in favor of it. and yet, that is what senator mccain added in the senate foreign relations committee. >> and you don't include that in your resolution? >> no, we don't. because these are two issues at stake. one is responding to the use of chemical weapons. and i believe it is important to uphold that international norm as secretary kerry said. i was a senate staffer myself once. i traveled to the iraq/turkish border when saddam had turned
his chemical weapons on his country, after using them in the iraq war. and the united states did nothing, and i always thought it was unusual that the united states, went to war when he didn't even have chemical weapons. so i think we need to send a lesson. but that is distinct from arming the rebels in a toxic civil war where we saw from the front page of "the new york times" today that the rebels include a lot of these extremist elements, who would be no better than assad should they come to power. and so we need to have a debate on that issue. and it should not be just shoe horned in to this narrow resolution on the use of force to prevent and then deter chemical weapons use. >> congressman van hollen, thank you very much for joining me. >> thank you. >> coming up, that shocking video of syrian rebels executing
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proudly executing the syrian soldiers who are kneeling at the rebels' feet. >> and there you have a perfect example of how the mainstream media is terribly conflicted on imagery like this. the new york times said it acquired this video from a rebel group this week. times said it was smuggled out of libya by a disgusted rebel. but they blackened the screen, just as the real imagery of war occurred. the blood that gushed out of the bodies of the victims. that is what war is about, killing people. that is war's objective.
death and destruction. the score is kept in war by body counts. and the mainstream media works very hard to tell you everything it can about war and show you everything it can about war, except, except, people actually being killed. that is where the mainstream media draws the line. they don't think that you can handle it. seeing people being killed. in other words, they don't think that you should be witnesses to the full reality of war. speeches and public statements about war usually don't make sense when matched with the real imagery of war. >> the path to the resolution of the syrian conflict is through a developed capable modern opposition. >> building the capacity of the vetted moderate opposition. >> abdul issa, the leader of
that rebel group who you just saw speaking before that execution is not one of the crazies in syria, he is not an al-qaeda leader. he has obtained weapons at least once from the leaders of the so-called moderate opposition, the supreme military council of the free syrian army. but the release of that video now requires that the obama administration regard mr. issa as one of the bad guys. >> there is a pretty shocking video by "the new york times" posted today. it is syrian rebels executing captured assad soldiers, gunshot to the back of the head, naked. if the u.s. attacks syria, do those men in those videos become, by definition, our ally? >> no, in fact, i believe those men in those videos are disadvantaged by an american response to the chemical weapons use, because it in fact empowers
the moderate opposition. we all know there are about 11 really bad opposition groups, so-called opposition. they're fighting assad. they are not part of the opposition that is being supported by our friends and ourselves. that is a moderate opposition. they condemn what has happened today. and they are -- and we are busy separating the support we're giving from any possibility of that support going to these guys. >> joining me now are former white house counterterrorism official, and nbc news terrorism analyst, and foreign correspondent, ayman mohyeldin. roger, are we to believe that the good guys we support in syria would never execute the captured soldiers? >> no, we should not believe that. because we don't have any control over what anybody on the ground is doing.
and that is part of the larger conundrum. the syrian army is identified by all parties as the military arm we want to support. the command, the control structure, the individuals involved at the tactical level may have totally different agendas. and as you have discussed, there are rebel elements here, jihadist rebels here that we cannot control. we can't assume anybody will do what they're saying they will do, in order to garner support. >> aman, there are about 100,000 oppositionists, as they call them. and maybe 15 or 20% of them are al-qaeda-related. how do we know how that mix is going to arrange itself in the future? >> reporter: well in the last two years of this conflict, what we have seen emerge are groups with some loose identities.
meaning that these groups identify themselves with either banners or statements. and we have been able to count over the course of the last two years, the emergegence of different strains of these groups. that number, by some european accounts, the number of those that have been or can be considered as affiliated with al-qaeda or the jihadist ideology that people are so afraid of, it could be as high as 70% of those that are actually fighting on the ground. but keep in mind, there is a difference between fighters, supporters and sympathizers, that going forward, you still have large parts of the country moving forward, are being contested for. meaning there are those in the regime that have not come out and taken sides in the conflict. so in the years ahead, if there is a post-assad era that is brought under control of the syrian army, you still have large parts of the population
that could rise up and reject that extremist ideology that are connected to the jihadist groups or extremists. that would tip the balance, to favor the possibly pro-western types of groups that are fighting those types of rebels that are fighting. but by no means should anybody believe that the rebels fighting inside syria believe that they're in support of human rights. this is, after all, a guerilla war, so you are seeing the videos, in addition to the one we have seen, that is actually tamer. we've seen horrific videos that have escalated over the past two years, some of them much worse, with the mass graves. >> and roger, i would just assume that there is no one on the rebel side who has set up some kind of prison camp for captured syrian soldiers, and
that they have no alternative plan for them when captured other than what we just saw in that video? >> yes, lawrence, the rules of war and the geneva convention are definitely not at play here right now. and i think aman nailed it in the sense you have a variety of different groups. some of the numbers we see tossed around d.c. right now, this is what i call jihadi voodoo math. we don't know if some individuals are fighting for purely local reasons. there are others who came into syria for broader religious reasons, and there are others who are fighting for criminal reasons or perhaps other reasons. who actually wins the war at the end of the conflict and who determines the type of support they have over the forces and followers is going to be completely up in the air. and we'll have little control over it. we may be able to influence it, but we should not be under any
illusions that we can drive it, consistent with how we want to see syria unfold in the future. >> aman, what is your understanding of the region to the reaction of what we've heard in the house and senate on this? >> reporter: well, there is still a very important question that has not been answered by a lot of the politicians in the united states, or at least among the policy debate taking place in the u.s. and that is what happens on the day after? a lot is being focused on how the potential american military strikes could degrade the syrian regime, how it could perhaps limit assad's use of chemical weapons in the future. but one subject that there is worry about, is the possible retaliation from the syrian president, not necessarily on israel or not necessarily on u.s. allies like turkey and jordan.
but what if he escalates inside syria, what if we suddenly see a barrage of attacks that really cause the dramatic death toll than the 1400 killed as a result of chemical weapons? how would that ultimately look for the united states? and more importantly, what happens if his allies become more hardened, supply him with more weapons, he can double his weapons. then we are really concerned about the month after, the day after, and there will be a lot of questions about the efficiency, if you will, in the american military in taking out this type of strike. that it only emboldens the syrian president, and more importantly, pushes the catastrophe that is causing a lot of areas to buckle under pressure. >> thank you both for joining me tonight. thank you, lawrence. coming up in the rewrite, how ronald reagan didn't just look the other way when saddam hussein used chemical weapons. ronald reagan actually helped
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governors have certain privileges, and one of them is not having to comment on issues beyond the borders of their state, and chris christie was one of those who did not give his opinion. he said he would leave it to the senate. he added that he has great confidence that the senate foreign relations committee will do what they think is right for america. i empathize with the folks who have relatives back in syria, but i'm going to let the policy-making be done by the people getting the most briefing on this. we're fortunate to have somebody in new jersey that will be at the forefront of this discussion and will help to craft the policy along with the president. republicans and ronald reagan are next in the rewrite.
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there is nothing that republicans have rewritten more than ronald reagan's record. they have erased from his record the painful fact for them that ronald reagan, both as a governor and as a president, raised taxes as well as cut taxes. the real ronald reagan raised taxes 11 times as president. but the ronald reagan who republicans worship would never do that. then today, the head of the house foreign affairs
subcommittee on the middle east actually said this. >> we have said this as a responsible nation that the use of chemical weapons is prohibited. it is against the norms of international standards, and to let something like this go unanswered i think will weaken the resolve. i know that president reagan would have never let this happen. he would have stood up to this. >> what president wouldn't have stood up to a middle east dictator using chemical weapons? well, the real ronald reagan wouldn't, and in fact, he didn't. in the regime, they used it repeatedly, and ronald reagan was his enabler. in review of documents, it shows that u.s. intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up the attacks by iranian troops.
ronald reagan and george bush authorized the sale of weapons, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruss such as anthrax and bubonic plague. ronald reagan didn't just look the other way when saddam used chemical weapons, he sold the stuff to him. the president of the united states was saddam hussein's drug dealer. michael dodd reported that it promoted trade as a way to boost exports and acquire political leverage over hussein. another brilliant reagan strategy that worked out just beautifully, didn't it? recently de-classified documents also show that during the final days of the reagan
administration, the united states learned through satellite imagery that iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in iraqi defenses. u.s. intelligence officials conveyed the location of iranian troops to iraq, fully aware that hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal agent. the real ronald reagan helped saddam hussein use chemical weapons, including sarin. in 1991, after the gulf war, the u.n. inspectors found all kinds of things in iraq made by u.s. manufacturers, chemicals, all sorts of components. and in 1994, the senate banking committee turned up dozens of agents shipped to iraq during the mid-'80s under license from the commerce department.
including various strains of anthrax. subsequently identified by the pentagon as a key component of the iraqi biological war fare program. the real ronald reagan sold anthrax to saddam hussein, anthrax, donald rumsfeld, then working for president reagan was in baghdad with hussein at a time when iraq was using chemical weapons on an almost daily basis, according to the report. yes, that is what the mythical ronald reagan would say, but the real ronald reagan said nothing when saddam used chemical weapons chemical weapons, .
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carolina trooper and her wife, an air force veteran are suing south carolina governor nikki haley for refusing to acknowledge their marriage. joining me in an exclusive interview next. i'm on expert on softball. and tea parties. i'll have more awkward conversations than i'm equipped for, because i'm raising two girls on my own. i'll worry about the economy more than a few times before they're grown. but it's for them, so i've found a way. who matters most to you says the most about you. at massmutual we're owned by our policyowners, and they matter most to us. ready to plan for your future? we'll help you get there. like carpools... polly wants to know if we can pick her up. yeah, we can make room. yeah. [ male announcer ] ...office space. yes, we're loving this communal seating. it's great. [ male announcer ] the best thing to share? a data plan. at&t mobile share for business. one bucket of data for everyone on the plan, unlimited talk and text on smart phones.
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the two have filed a lawsuit against governor nikki haley and state's attorney wilson in hopes of overturning south carolina's defense of marriage law. along with the 2006 amendment, and the constitution banning same-sex marriage. the couple married in washington in april 2012. but the state constitution also prohibits the recognition of that marriage. while the state attorney general has yet to comment on the lawsuit, governor haley's office issued this statement. governor haley, like the majority of people in south carolina supports traditional marriage as defined between one man and one woman, and in accordance with state law, will continue to uphold those values. the legislature has spoken on this issue. the people have spoken on this issue, and the governor remains resolute in support of the state's constitution and supports the rights. and this doesn't change that. tracy, you're a state highway patrol trooper.
and your lawsuit reads, lesbian, gay, and first responders are denied if they make the sacrifice, the financial support available to help those who lost their spouses in service to the community. that is just one of the elements of what you're fighting for in this lawsuit, isn't it? >> yes, it is. >> and the defense of marriage act, the supreme court setting that aside, has opened up a legal possibility for you now that was not there before, to get your marriage that was established legally elsewhere, recognized in south carolina. and tracy, without that supreme court decision, it would be hard to see how you could bring that case now. >> yes, i think it opened up the door for us. and obviously, it is going to open options for us to be able to pursue this. >> katie, as a state employee,
what was your reaction to what governor haley said about your case? >> i mean, she has a job to do, and that job is to uphold the law as it is right now. >> and the -- the benefit situation is not the only element of these -- of these kinds of situations. what is it -- tracy, about your family that you want recognized by south carolina? >> well, we obviously want the same things as any other family. we have three children. we want to be able to put those children on our insurance. we want the peace of mind that if something happens to our children, that we obviously -- something happens to me or katie, that the other parent is going to be able to keep the children. and we don't want any jeopardy with that. otherwise, we recognize our marriage, we're a family unit.
>> katie, you could have sat back and hoped that someone else might bring a lawsuit like this. what made you willing and ready to go first with this in south carolina? >> i could have. but i think that is the problem that people think, is that they could stand by and just let it happen. but the question is, when will it happen? and it needs to happen now, thanks to the united states versus windsor, she kind of paved the road for us to do it here. there are plenty of homosexuals here in south carolina. normally, they don't come out because they're afraid of what could happen or how they're viewed here. so it just -- it is sad, you worry about your job and your security if you let people know about your personal life. and that is a fear that we have had in the past. and we still continue to have. so that is one of the reasons that this is important, that
this has happened. >> katie, tracy, and jordan, thank you all very much for joining us tonight. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. bad company. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start tonight with this. give me a war and i'll give you a picture. give me a picture, and there might not be a war. that's the power we're seeing with this morning's release of this horrid video and still photo that "the new york times" acquired from a rebel group this week. across the top of the "new york times" we see men with rifles. those men are on the side we'd be backing. standing over men with welts on their back, men kneeling, men knowing they're about to die. men in the hellish crosshairs of